Back in January of 2021, when we were first loading the site with posts to be debuted for the March launch, I uploaded two pieces on the California Lunker Club (CLC) and its beginning. The California Lunker Club is important for western anglers because it was the first “association” in the west that brought bass anglers together as a cohesive unit. Today in, California Lunker Club May 1974, we’re going to start looking back at the publication that only lasted four months but started the revolution in bass fishing in the west.
Although only four issues were published before Western Bass Fishing Association purchased the CLC in late 1974, the CLC had been around since 1971. What started out initially as an insurance club for anglers to help pay for mounting trophy bass, within a year it morphed into the first tournament organization in the west.
The brains behind the CLC was a man by the name of Dave Coolidge. With nine members joining the club the in the first six months, Coolidge and his nine buddies thought it would be good for membership to hold tournaments. The first tournament drew 37 anglers. The second drew 67 anglers. By the start of 1974, Coolidge had grown the Club to more than 300 anglers from all over southern California.
Today what I have here is the first issue of the California Lunker Club Bass Report. At 24 pages long I hate to call it a newsletter, it was more of a magazine, just printed on rough 120-pound paper. No glossy pictures, no high-dollar ads, just pure bass fishing knowledge. It reminds me a lot of Ray Scott’s first Bassmaster Magazine issue. In fact, the first Bassmaster issue was also 24 pages long but had a color cover.
To look through this first issue is to look back in time at the best anglers the southland had to offer. Everyone of these anglers were card-carrying B.A.S.S. members, some of them had even fished a few of Ray’s early events. The anglers in these issues I’ll be presenting in the next couple weeks set the bar for competitive fishing in the west.
I’m not going to go through the entire magazine due to its length, but I’ll hit on the high points and point out some important history within each issue.
The cover of Issue 1, May 1974, features a couple pictures from two events prior to publication. You’ll notice a common theme amongst them, Bobby Sandberg. Sandberg was not only a big fish expert from San Diego but a hell of a tournament angler. Sandberg, a member of the formidable Pisces Bass Club out of San Diego, would graduate CLC competition and move on to fish the Western Bass Fishing Association and continue racking up the high finishes. Sandberg also caught an 18-09 in 1976 plus had other “teener” fish on his resume.
Page 2 is the meager masthead of the rag and features an Editorial by Harvey Naslund, which was written in true Naslund fashion. Naslund would go on to become the Tournament Director for Western Bass for decades before he passed in 2011.
Next to the editorial are the tournament standings for the 1974 season. The name at the top, Dave Nollar, was another western stud who cut his teeth on the western bass scene. Not only could you rely on him to take your money every weekend, Nollar was a hell of a taxidermist.
Pages 3-6 have tournament reports from two El Capitan events that are pretty fun to read as well as the Anglers of the Year and Tournament of Champions events. In traditional terms, Jack O’Malley won the Angler of the Year (El Numero Uno) and Dave Nollar won the Tournament of Champions, the year-end event. A note on Jack O’Malley (West Valley Bassmasters). By the time I started tournament fishing in 1978, O’Malley was beyond a legend. If the fish were on a jig, he couldn’t be beat and he was just as adept with a crankbait.
The picture on page 6 has a string of studs from the day. Starting at the left is 1992 Bassmaster Florida Invitational winner Mike Folkestad and to his right is Larry Hopper, another western stalwart who just happens to be the guy who designed the first epoxy resin that enabled the graphite rod to be built. The there’s Nollar, Jack O’Malley and Jim Drake, another stout angler.
Pages 8 and 9 provide a couple reports on new lake records. This was the hey day of big bass in southern California where records were falling like leaves in October. It seemed each week a new lake record was established only to be broken days later by something bigger.
Pages 10 through 12 give club reports from a handful of the clubs present back at the time. The next page provided anglers with information on the next two events in June and page 15 listed all of the records held by CLC members to date. Of particular interest in this list is Rip Nunnery’s Bassmaster World Record 15-bass 1-day limit caught on Lake Eufaula in 1969 – a record that will never be broken. To tie this all together, it was Rip who gave this magazine to me as a kid back around 1980.
Rip’s record isn’t the only impressive one on the list though. There’s “Lunker” Bill Murphy with a 15-08, Roger Dickson with a 40-10 5-fish limit, as well as some historical lake records that have long since been smashed.
On page 17 starts a piece written by “Lunker” Bill Murphy on how to fish a plastic worm. This article was also posted prior to the launch of the site and has gone unnoticed for nearly two years. After yesterday’s piece on Lunker Bill, this would be another piece to read for you fans.
The rest of the magazine is continuations of earlier articles some cool ads and a bass fishing crossword puzzle for the nerds in the crowd. For the whole magazine, please see the gallery below. Even if you’re not from the southwest, there is a lot of information in here for the bass nerd to pick up on from a historical perspective. I hope you enjoyed this look back into the history of bass fishing in California and what became the start of organized bass fishing in the west.
To read the first two articles posted in January 2021 on the genesis of the CLC click this link for Part One and this Link for Part Two. If you’re into the history of the sport, I highly recommend it.